Friday, October 05, 2007

leaving barcelona

It was a Sunday morning and we tried, with directions from the hotel's consierge, to find a LDS sacrament service. While the guy was looking up the directions, I turned and looked out the glass doors to the pedestrian street. A nude man rode by on a bicycle. I turned back to the consierge and said, "Um, I just saw a naked..."

"That's Barcelona," he replied without waiting for me to finish or looking up from his computer screen.
We never did find the sacrament meeting location. It seems there are two streets by that name. So we went out for chocolate croissants and hot chocolate. Why don't they have chocolate croissants readily available in the U.S.? And we don't have enough pastry cream here, either. The hot chocolate is as thick as it looks in the photo. More like hot pudding.

As many of you know, Barcelona is in Catalonia. They speak Catalan instead of Spanish if they can get away with it. All of their signage is in Catalan with no Spanish translation. The schools teach in Catalan exclusively in the first six grades. Even private schools must teach Catalan, much to the annoyance of other Spaniards who move there with children. Catalans have wanted, like the Basques, to separate from Spain and create their own country. They already have some degree of autonomy. About six months ago I read in the Wall Street Journal that in Spain there is a serious threat of balkanization.

One of J's distributors picked us up from the airport in Madrid. We really liked him and his wife. He is very similar to J in many ways. We went out to dinner with them. (I wish I'd taken photos!) Anyway, when he picked us up from the airport it was the first time we'd met him in person. Not five minutes into the drive, he began talking about the political situation with Catalonia. He was very passionate about it, as it seems many Spaniards are. He said, "What is their problem? If they were being repressed, I can see their argument for separating from Spain. But they govern themselves already. Why can't we be a united Spain? Why can't we get along like people in the U.S. do?" (I had to smile at his last question.)

I pointed out that in the U.S. there is no region with it own distinct language and culture. I even dared to say that the Catalonians only wanted their own country because they viewed themselves as sufficiently distinct in language and culture from the rest of Spain, and after all, they used to have their own country. I got an earful. "But that's the very thing!" he said. "Most Catalonians do not care at all about separating from Spain. The vast majority want to live their lives quietly. They are just like you and me. What is so frustrating is that it is only a very small minority who agitate for this, and only because it will bring them money and power. They whip up the sentiments of the people with their talk of preserving their culture, but it is just a tool used to manipulate."

A few days later we were in Barcelona. I asked a taxi driver if he was from Barcelona. He laughed. "No, of course not," he said. "No one is from here. I'm from the south of Spain and I came in the 70s. Many of us came in the 60s or 70s." I asked if he spoke Catalan. "Yes, yes," he said. "I learned it after living here a month or two. It's much like Spanish." It made me wonder how many of the 10 million supposed Catalan speakers are originally from different parts of Spain.


Auntie Lee said...

That happend to me a few times last winter. One day I was outside one of the student buildings on a busy street in the middle of Amsterdam. A guy on rollerblades skated by with a short winter jacket on and a g-string. I tell ya, you've got to be a dihard to be dressed like that in the winter in A'dam. It was cold!

Some of the study buildings are in the redlight district. I have to walk by the hoer houses on the way to school. There they are sitting in the "store" windows at 8:30 in the morning. They have to wear some kind of bikini or g-string though (thank goodness). I have gotten use to them though. You see tourist stopping just to ask them directions to a museum or sometimes just to talk. Its funny.

Montserrat said...

Mmmmm, that hot chocolate and croissant look heavenly!!!

I know my Avi is a die-hard, Catalonia is its own country type of guy. What's really funny for me is I have a neighbor about a mile down the road who is from Spain. When Joseph said, "Oh, you're a Spaniard." He got really huffy and let us know in no uncertain terms that he was a Catalan and not a Spaniard. Reminded me so much of my grandpa!

athena said...

the catalans (sp) in france seem to be different from those in spain. my father inlaw is of catalan descent.

that hot chocolate looks SO good.

Calandria said...

Auntie Lee, that is funny. Strange little tourist attraction you've got there.

Montse, I think many of the Catalans who feel as your grandfather does moved to other parts of the world. I know that in rural parts of Catalonia it is still mostly people of Catalan descent living there, but that doesn't seem to be the case in the cities. The cities are so full of immigrants from other countries and other parts of Spain, I wonder how many true "Catalans" are even left there. It makes their case for creating their own country a weaker one.

Calandria said...

So Athena, the Catalans in France do not care so much about creating their own country?

athena said...

not as much as the basques. but the basques on the french side seem different from those on the spainish side too. i went to school with a number of basques from the spanish side and they were very political in their views whereas the basques on the french side just wanted to keep their language.

athena said...

well no, that's a lie. the basques on the french side do want to be separate but the french government does things differently from the spanish.